What: Tag Team Scene
Who: Divide class into pairs
Materials: Pens/Pencils, Character/Location/Line Pages, Timer
Why: Use this exercise to practice writing natural-sounding dialogue. With this exercise students must keep true to a character and situation and write dialogue that is responsive rather than calculated.
1. Once students are in their pairs, have them decide who is Partner A and who is Partner B. Partner A will be responsible for Character A’s lines, and Partner B will be responsible for Character B’s lines.
2. Tell students they’re going to write a scene one line at a time. Partner B will start with their first line, then pass the paper to Partner A, who will write their line in response, and so on.
3. There will be a time limit to write the line. For the first round, the time limit is one minute.
4. Give each pair a Character/Location/Line Page but place it face down. Instruct them not to turn the page over.
5. Instruct students that on this page there are three pieces of information to pay attention to:
1. An identifier for each character. For example, Character A: Mom, Character B: Teen. Character A: Dentist, Character B: Nervous Patient. They have to write for their character.
2. A location. Amusement park, dentist’s office, kitchen. When they write, their lines they have to stay true to their location. They cannot leave their location.
3. A first line for Character A. This is why Partner B starts. Partner B, your line must respond to that first line. Be true to the location and your character. If your character is a nervous patient and you’re in a dentist’s office, you can’t start a fight with nunchucks.
6. Once the papers are handed out, instruct students that on your command, Partner B (and only Partner B) will turn over the page. Partner B will announce the two characters and the location. Partner B will then read the line to themselves and respond with the next line without sharing what they’re writing with their Partner.
7. Tell students that you’re going to call out when time is up. At that point they are to switch papers.
8. Instruct Partner B to turn the page and start the time.
9. When the minute is up, call out the switch and restart the timer again. Now Partner A reads what Parter B just wrote and responds accordingly. Coach them to respond to the previous line. What would your response be, instinctually? Coach them to keep in mind who they are and where they are.
10. At the end of the time limit, instruct students to switch and Partner B writes the next line. Keep going until each partner has written five lines (ten in total).
11. Afterward, students read out their completed scene.
12. Discuss with students what it was like to have to write so quickly, to not be able to discuss the scene beforehand, and to respond without predetermining the scene.
13. Explain to students that organic regular conversation is all about response. We don’t often think about what we’re going to say, we just say it. We don’t get to go back and come up with the perfect line. Sometimes our response isn’t perfect. Writing natural-sounding dialogue requires you to be responsive.
14. Repeat the exercise again. This time give students 30 seconds to write each response.